Ceiling space is at a premium at McKeesport's Neenie Campbell Gymnasium. A banner hangs from the ceiling for each of the 27 section titles the Mc-Keesport boys' basketball team has won since 1920.
But those rafters are about to get a little more crowded.
McKeesport clinched the WPIAL Class AAAA Section 2 championship last night with a 51-47 victory against visiting Central Catholic in a showdown of the top two ranked teams in Class AAAA. The game drew a sellout crowd of more than 1,300.
McKeesport, the No. 1-ranked team, is now 17-1 overall and 12-0 in the section. No. 2 Central Catholic dropped to 18-4 and 9-2.
"We have three goals," said McKeesport senior guard Quentin Harding, who scored a game-high 20 points. "Winning the section is one of them. The other two are the WPIAL and then the state. So you can say we have one accomplishment so far."
And two victories against Central Catholic so far. McKeesport defeated Central Catholic, 66-58, a few weeks ago in a game that was strikingly similar to last night. Or at least the fourth quarter was similar.
A few weeks ago, Central Catholic missed its first eight shots in the fourth quarter and didn't score for the first 6:26. The Vikings fell behind by double digits and lost by eight.
This time, Central Catholic held a 42-38 lead after three quarters, but Central Catholic was 1 of 10 from the field in the final quarter and scored only five points in the final eight minutes. Central Catholic shot 47 percent (17 of 36) in the first three quarters.
"We had a six-point lead at one point in the second half, and I think if we could've got that to eight, things could've been different because we could've controlled the tempo a little more," said Central Catholic coach Chuck Crummie.
Harding got the final six points of the game for McKeesport. His basket with 3:48 remaining gave McKeesport a 47-46 lead. Central Catholic turned the ball over on its next possession and McKeesport had five shots before Harding scored off a rebound with 1:49 left.
"The second half of the season, he's just been playing well," said McKeesport coach Corey Gadson.
The first quarter of the game was played at a fast pace and Central Catholic held a 17-15 lead. But Central Catholic changed from a man-to-man defense to a matchup zone the rest of the way, and the pace of the game slowed. Central Catholic is almost strictly a man-to-man team. But the zone was effective. McKeesport forward Devon Alexander had only nine points after scoring 20 in the first meeting.
"We did some things we needed to do, like holding Alexander down and stopping Marvase Byrd's penetration," Crummie said. "The only thing we didn't adjust to was Quentin Harding driving.
"They're a lot to stop. You can't stop all of them."
Assistant coaches from Pitt and Villanova were on hand to see Zeke Marshall, McKeesport's 6-foot-11 junior center, stop a number of Central Catholic shots from getting to the basket as he had eight blocks. Marshall also had 14 rebounds and eight points.
Forward Shadrae King added 10 points for McKeesport.
Matt McKenna led Central Catholic with 14 points but had only three after the first 11 minutes of the game. Forward Brandon Sams added 12.